Mexico bombing signals gang threat

Attack on Televisa seen as attempt to silence media

MEXICO CITY– The car bomb that detonated early Friday outside the Ciudad Victoria studios for Mexico’s no. 1 web Televisa sent yet another clear signal that deadly narco gangs are stepping up their campaign to silence media outlets in violence-ravaged northeastern Mexico.

The explosion, coming shortly after midnight, caused no injuries but damaged the front of the facility, knocked out electricity for several blocks and temporarily interrupted Televisa’s signal. Less than an hour later another car bomb went off outside of a police station also without injury.

Ciudad Victoria is the capital of Tamaulipas state, the northeastern border state where the grisly discovery of a mass grave containing the remains of 72 migrants, many from Central America, was made earlier this week. An investigator for the state on that case was reported missing Friday.

The largest producer of Spanish-language content in the world, Televisa reported the attacks in its Friday morning newscast, but it is declining to offer formal comment until the official investigation is complete.

This week’s spiraling violence comes two weeks after assailants tossed grenades at the same studios during a simultaneous attack that also targeted Televisa’s Monterrey studios in the neighboring state of Nuevo Leon. Just before that three journalists were kidnapped for several days, sparking a national outcry; that incident ended safely with arrests being made.

The attacks represent a pattern of attacks aimed at intimidating journalists working in a variety of mediums and at the places they work. Many blame the rising chaos on President Felipe Calderon’s escalation of the war on the cartels that he began in 2006 with strong U.S. support that has since left more than 28,000 dead – mainly cartel members and law enforcement and military personnel.

The criminals’ ability to track and pursue reporters is alarming. One photojournalist with a major national daily, speaking anonymously, received a threatening call to his hotel room one evening recently after covering events in Tamaulipas.

“The person on the phone told me that they highly recommended that I catch the first flight out of town in the morning,” said the reporter, who believes he was observed taking photos at a scene involving multiple deaths earlier that day.

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